A food referred to as a ‘superfood’ is one that offers large nutritional benefits while being low in calories. Typically this will be a food that is also full of vital vitamins and minerals that largely benefit the body and help with everyday bodily functions. Nutritionally rich foods will often contain antioxidants too.
Antioxidants help the body neutralise free radicals that occur in the body as a result of energy production when the body breaks down food. Free radicals damage the body’s cells, leading to illness and disease. Over time, this can also cause aging.
What one person classifies as a superfood may differ from another, due to factors such as allergies and dietary requirements. But either way, by incorporating food with high vitamins and minerals into your diet, it’s possible to lead a healthier lifestyle. Especially if you regularly eat this type of food.
Types Of Superfoods
There are many different types of superfood, some of them more obscure than others. You probably know about berries like cranberries being a superfood, but did you know that dark chocolate is considered to be one too? We’ve looked at ten great superfoods below:
Berries such as blueberries, raspberries and cranberries are dense in amino acids and a range of antioxidants. High in vitamin C and vitamin E, berries help prevent a number of different cancers and against heart disease. A person that consumes berries on a daily basis is likely to have lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Eating soy has clear health benefits to the cardiovascular system and helps reduce blood pressure. Research suggests that regular consumption of soy helps prevent age-related memory loss and the impact of aging on bones. Soy is low in saturated fats, while high in vitamins, minerals and polyunsaturated fats (healthy fats).
3. Leafy Greens
There’s no doubt that vegetables are an important food source in a balanced diet. Leafy green vegetables are all high in vitamins A, B, C, E and K. They are also high in fibre and therefore good for the digestive systems, helping with regular excretion as well as preventing constipation. This type of food also helps fight against obesity and is good for an individual’s mental health and wellbeing.
4. Dark Chocolate
A small amount of dark chocolate consumed in moderation has great health benefits due to being high in flavonoids. This helps reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. It is important to note that chocolate bought in a shop will typically be high in sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. You should therefore try and consume it in moderation and in its most pure form, where possible.
5. Green Tea
While most people drink green tea, rather than incorporate it into foods, it’s still considered a superfood. Not only is green tea rich in antioxidants, it also has polyphenolic compounds, both of which have anti-inflammatory properties. One of the most common antioxidants found in green tea is catechin, which research has suggested can protect against certain chronic diseases. These include cancer, heart disease and diabetes. It’s also been suggested that green tea could help with weight loss, though evidence is inconclusive.
You probably know turmeric as the yellow spice that gives many curries their distinctive colour. What you may not realise is that turmeric contains curcumin, which has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which can help in the treatment and prevention of diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Curcumin has also been shown to help with pain reduction and speeding up the healing process. To absorb as much curcumin into the blood as possible, it’s recommended that you consume turmeric with fats or black pepper.
While we often use avocado like a vegetable, it’s actually a fruit – rather like tomatoes. Avocados are full of nutrients such as minerals, vitamins, healthy fats and fibre. Eating avocado could reduce your risk of things like heart disease, some forms of cancer, metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
Who doesn’t like garlic? When a recipe calls for two cloves of garlic, they surely mean about eight cloves, right? Luckily, garlic comes with a number of medicinal benefits, so we don’t need to feel too guilty about adding it to just about every meal. It’s a good source of vitamins C and B6, as well as manganese, selenium and fibre. Not only this, but research suggests that garlic can help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, and support your immune function. There is additionally speculation that some of the sulfur-containing compounds in garlic could help prevent certain types of cancer.
Seaweed is actually the name for particular sea vegetables that are rich in nutrients. The nutrients you can find in seaweed include fibre, vitamin K, iodine and folate. Seaweed also contains unique bioactive compounds, some of which could reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity.
10. Sweet Potatoes
Bet you never thought you’d see any type of potato on a list of superfoods! Unlike white potatoes, sweet potatoes are a highly nutritious food, full of things like potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and fibre. They also contain carotenoids, which is an antioxidant that is said to reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Incorporating Superfoods in the Diet
While eating superfoods has clear benefits, it is important that anyone looking to lead a healthy lifestyle is mindful of eating a balanced diet overall. For example, someone with allergies or an intolerance to a certain food group may not benefit from eating a certain food even if it is considered a superfood with clear health benefits! It would be more beneficial for them to simply find healthy foods they enjoy eating on a regular basis, have access to and are able to incorporate into their diet.